Anti-tobacco activists demand to raise FED on cigarettes

By: Our Correspondent

ISLAMABAD: Experts and civil society activists urged the government to increase taxes on cigarettes in the upcoming budget to improve the health system of the country. They were speaking at a press conference on Wednesday at National Press Club Islamabad.

The press conference was organised by Society for Protection of Rights of the Child (SPARC), Human Development Foundation (HDF) and Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH).

Anti-tobacco activists demanded from government at least Rs.20 increase in the Federal Excise Duty (FED) on cigarettes in upcoming annual budget 2020-21 to enhance revenue collection and discourage tobacco use.  

Sajjad Ahmed Cheema, Executive Director, SPARC said, considering the fact that increase in dollar price has had an effect on the prices of basic goods for living whereas, the prices of tobacco products are still the same which makes it accessible to minors.

He further added that civil society organizations are anxious for better future of Pakistan and are seriously concerned that why heavy taxes are not been imposed on tobacco industry in the country. Heavy taxation on tobacco products will not only reduce the tobacco consumption and its accessibility but will also keep the minors off from tobacco.

Cheema stated this will also reduce the health bill of Government of Pakistan and will contribute to clean and healthy environment for future generations. We urge to the Government to impose higher taxes on tobacco products to save our children.

Mr. Azhar Saleem, CEO, Human Development Foundation (HDF) said that the country is facing a severe shortage of funds to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19). He further added that through changes in the taxation structure, tobacco industry has been evading taxes at the cost of the lives of people. The government needs to keep in mind the growing inflation rate while finalizing the taxes on tobacco products for fiscal year 2020-2021. He urged the government to increase FED on tobacco products by Rs20 for each slab of tobacco tax structure.

Ch. Sana Ullah Ghuman, Secretary General, Pakistan National Heart Association said the Government needs to adopt a futuristic approach and channelize the additional revenues into situations where financial setbacks are faced such as the current pandemic of coronavirus. This additional revenue will continue in lessening the financial crunch that the country is facing.

According to health experts and advocates, the severe shortage of funds faced by Pakistan to combat the coronavirus could be over-come by imposing more taxation on tobacco products.